Trainz/Driving Steam Engines

Driving a Steam Locomotive


Trainz supports realistic CAB controls for steam engines. Driving a Steam Engine is considerably harder than driving in CAB mode for Diesel/Electric engines. However it is generally considered far more enjoyable.

Note: Steam CAB mode is only supported on specific steam engines. Some engines do not contain a cab that allows you to change the controls aside from using the hotkeys. This can be difficult or frustrating at times. Typically if you are creating a session involving driving a steam locomotive, it is advised that you have a proper working first person cab.

Advantages/Disadvantages of Steam CAB



  • There's nothing quite the same as driving in Steam CAB and overall it can be far more enjoyable.
  • To a certain extent, it can give you more control over the speed of your train and once you have the controls mastered, you can actually use the train better than the automated systems that DCC offers - especially with water and coal management.


  • Takes a lot longer than DCC to be able to understand.
  • The HUD List can be very confusing for first time users.
  • More complicated that Diesel/Electric Cab controls.

Steam CAB Basics


This simple tutorial will cover the basics of driving a steam locomotive in Trainz. It is assumed that you have played through the other tutorials that should be included within your game including a tutorial on Diesel CAB mode.

For the purposes of this tutorial, the LMS Duchess will be used without any rolling stock. This is available for purchase from Simulator Central. However you are able to use any steam locomotive that you want. Bear in mind that each steam locomotive is different and thus has different strengths and weaknesses.

Water and Coal


A very important difference between steam locomotives and diesel locomotives is the method of fuel. Diesel locomotives rely on diesel fuel, however in Trainz most of the time they will not require any product in order to be powered. Steam engines rely on coal and water. Both of these are stored in the tender. If you run out of water, you will run out of steam and will therefore be unable to move. The same applies for coal, though you are typically able to go a slightly longer distance without it.

Regardless, it is very important that you don't run out of either product. Although it is typically unlikely that you are going to run out in any given session, it is important to know where you will be able to refill. Trainz 2004 and above includes an industry called "Industry Steam Filler" in the surveyor Structures Tab. Coal is off loaded on one side and water is automatically generated. When you move your locomotive up to the steam filler, it will automatically refill. Other industries can also provide this valuable product.

Starting your engine


When you first start your Steam Engine, it will already be steamed for you and just needs to start moving away at your command. You don't need to spend hours waiting for the pressure to build in the boiler. When you first start driving a steam engine, you may be overwhelmed by the words on the right side of the screen. However this will all be covered and by the end of this tutorial, everything will make sense.

The view screen


This is a list of all the labels that appear in a Steam Engines CAB Mode. Braking is covered in Diesel/Electric tutorials.

  • Brake Pipe
  • Brake Cylinder
  • Main Res
  • Equalizer
  • Brake: Current state of the Brake (Released, Initial, Application, Emergency, Handle Off)
  • Boiler: Current pressure in the boiler. In lamen's terms, the higher it is, the faster you can potentially go.
  • Regulator: Controls the opening/closing of the steam regulator, thus controlling how much steam is delivered to the cylinders.
  • Cutoff: Controls how much steam is used in each piston.
  • Water: Water level in the boiler. Not to be confused with the water remaining in the tender.
  • Steam Chest: How much steam is being delivered to the cylinders.
  • Coal Level: Coal inside the firebox. Try to keep it at around 60-80% as you need room for the smoke to grow.

Moving Forward and Backwards


Moving Forward


The best way to start driving is to start slow. Driving a Steam Locomotive is much harder than driving a Diesel or Electric but is also more fun.

  1. Release your brake... [Q] ... you'll hear air flow noises.
    1. Brake pipe, Flow rate, and Cylinder Pressure should all move; these readings are the same in Electric, Diesel, or Steam traction engines. Also, all braking mentions here are the same in all non-DCC modes.
    2. If Cylinder Pressure does not drop, the Locomotive's Independent Brake is also engaged. Toggle off with [E]
  2. Set your cutoff to +45–+75%... [F] - repeated as needed...nn times
    1. From inside the CAB camera view, you will see the cut off lever move.
    2. You can expedite the process, bypassing all those '[E]' keystrokes by |LMBH| = L-clicking on the lever, holding it and sliding it (dragging) to the stops, or part of the way.
    3. Using lever control gives you finer control, faster control, and is visible and obvious.
  3. Bring up the Regulator (throttle) to about 45%... [W] - repeated as needed.
    1. From inside the CAB camera view, you will see the throttle lever move towards the open direction.
    2. You can expedite the process by dragging it with your mouse (|LMBH+drag|).
    3. Dragging both levers gives finer control as well as faster control than with hot keys. Practice, if you need to change motion suddenly, you will need to be comfortable with them.
    4. The locomotive should happily pull away in the forwards direction, once the cylinder pressure drops throughout the whole consist. (The more cars, the longer it takes to act—longer lines mean more stored air pressure to vent.)
  4. Build up speed to 25-30 mph.
  5. Reduce the regulator back down to 0% and take note of how quickly the locomotive stops. Chances are, especially in large locomotives, the engine has continued moving forward but is now rolling enthusiastically and only slowing down a small amount as it has a great deal of momentum.

Braking under steam, or in general

  1. From inside the cab, now Brake using the hot key... [A] for application (or apply)
    1. Note which lever moved, it's action is quite different than the Cutoff or Throttle levers. (you may have to tip down and zoom in/out.
    2. Grab the lever with the mouse (|LMBH + drag|) and practice applying or releasing the braking that way while you are still rolling forwards at a brisk pace. Alternately release and slow getting practice.
    3. Note the third position called 'Lap' — meaning partial pressure in the brake lines, causing brake shoes up and down the consist to rub the wheels.
    4. Lap mode using the Hotkeys is a two or three step procedure (usually just two keystrokes)
      1. Press [A] to begin pressurizing the brake shoes. (Some few Diesels will indicate 'initial' instead of 'Applied' in the HUD.
         • If so, press [A] a second time, and pressurization will begin.
      2. Press [Z] after 2-4 seconds, closing the air flow off.
         • You can watch the equalizer change, when it drops 10-20 psi or so will be roughly the same as 2–4 seconds—which is when to press Z.
    5. Move the brake straight into "Application" mode and the locomotive should quickly stop.

Moving Backwards

  1. Set your Cutoff to -75%
  2. Release the brake.
  3. Pull up the regulator, except only to about 10%. When the brakes finish coming off, the locomotive should happily start moving backwards.
  4. When you're satisfied, turn your regulator back to 0% and apply the brake.

Start playing around with various speeds and try getting used to stopping and starting. This may take a while. The next tutorial covers movement at high speed.

Moving at High Speed


Moving at high speed in a steam locomotive requires a lot more work than on a Diesel or Electric. You'll need to actively watch your water levels, coal levels and the gradient. For this section, it's also advised that you have a long stretch of track to work with. If your using Trainz 12, the ECML line is an excellent example of long straight stretches.

  1. With your locomotive on the tracks, add a couple of coaches. This will really only work with a big heavy load.
  2. Set your cutoff to 75%.
  3. Release the brakes.
  4. Set your regulator to 100%. The locomotive should start pulling away. However, you'll be considerably limited in speed, especially with heavy loads.
  5. Once the acceleration of the locomotive starts to slow reduce, start reducing the cutoff from 75% down to 45%. You'll notice the steam chest rise.
  6. The locomotive should start moving faster now.

Why Reduce Cutoff?


Good question. By reducing cutoff, you're also reducing the amount of steam used in the cylinders. While this may seem counter-productive, you're actually doing two things. 1. The steam is being used more to keep the engine going in the desired direction rather than pushing really hard. 2. You're saving a HUGE amount of steam, which is extremely helpful when on long distance travel.

Something to remember: a high cutoff means excellent strength and a low cutoff means high speed. It's always good to find a nice balance between the two.

Water and Coal


Watch your water level. If it's gone below 40%, open the injectors to let more water into the boiler. Otherwise this will be a short trip. Also, watch your coal level. Try and keep it between 65% and 80%. Some locomotives feature automatic coal management, but if your locomotive doesn't, or if you don't know if it does, the hotkey for adding more coal into the boiler is "Spacebar"



To a large extent, you may wish to ignore watching the gradient. However in terms of saving steam and also keeping to the strict railway timetables, it can be useful.

Increasing the cutoff slightly while going uphill can help with pulling heavy loads. Decreasing the cutoff and perhaps the throttle while going downhill can help with saving steam. Since you can use gravity to send you down, why use your precious steam? This does NOT mean completely turning off the cutoff and regulator though.


  • All steam locomotives in Trainz 12 are equipped with a whistle, though this does not affect gameplay at all. Despite a whistle pulling small amounts of steam from the boiler, it will not actually affect the boiler pressure.